Date of Award

Spring 5-6-2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in School Leadership


Center for Leadership & Learning


College of Education

Committee Chair

Dr. Sarah Gordon

Second Committee Member

Dr. Tennille Lasker-Scott

Third Committee Member

Dr. Tiffany Bone

Program Director

Dr. John Freeman

Dean of Graduate College

Dr. Sarah Gordon


Studies have shown the positive associations between academic achievement, student engagement, and student-teacher relationships (Willms, 2003; Roorda et al., 2011). However, limited research exists on the subject of student-teacher relationships from the student perspective, and virtually no literature focuses on student-teacher relationships from the student perspective in the southern United States. This qualitative study was designed to collect and examine the perceptions of African American high school students in Arkansas on the development of student-teacher relationships. Data was collected through focus group meetings held with African American students in two diverse high schools. The constant comparative method of data analysis was applied to the transcripts of focus group meetings in an iterative process of developing codes, identifying patterns, and establishing themes (Glaser, 1965). While there were several valuable pieces of learning identified in this study, there were four key findings: everyday, meaningful experiences are important in building relationships between students and teachers; teachers should be proactive in understanding students individually and culturally; racism, discrimination, and stereotyping continue to be common experiences for African American high school students; and Self-Determination Theory (Ryan & Deci, 2019) serves as an adequate framework from which to examine student-teacher relationships. The findings of this study have implications for teachers, school leaders, and educator preparation programs, and future research can benefit from the conclusions of this study.